So when you unlock the door to your restaurant tomorrow or lead your video staff meeting next week, how will your Christian faith influence your leadership, and ultimately your business? As an entrepreneur — church-based, nonprofit, or business owner — how do you allow your faith to impact your company without overwhelming your company and potentially alienating your employees and customers?
In our gray world, whether or not a business is Christian becomes more and more complicated depending on the latest Christian soapbox. Can a business that sells pants made from cotton treated with pesticides and farmed by individuals living below the Western poverty line be Christian? Is a business that sells Christian books and music and every cross-oriented kitsch known to man at a ridiculous mark-up really Christian? Can a Christian own a bullet-making company and if so, does that make the company not Christian?
Before I can answer the questions above, I want to know about the business owner and the values they incorporate into their company. How the Christian entrepreneur allows their passions to impact the company’s mores and philosophies will ultimately define if their business can bear the Christian label.
Keeping in mind that Romans 12 reminds us how all of life is an act of worship, all of life — especially our careers — are opportunities for ministry. That goes double for the entrepreneur: you get to create something that extends your Christian faith into the community. Your faith is a value issue. (At least it should be.) If your relationship with Jesus is of value, it should form whatever you start.
Be honest in your dealings.
Opportunities to break the law run rampant in startups. Your tutoring business could be an all-cash, never-reported-to-the-IRS endeavor. Your halfway house could funnel kickbacks to medical providers in turn for clients. You could cheat your salespeople out of commissions rightfully due to them. But to do so would value success more than your relationship with Christ. Jesus told his followers to both “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and to “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.”
Be generous with profits, especially toward the underserved.
Stakeholder value is critical in startups and businesses. But value is not found solely from pocketing profits. Consider how you can enlist your employees in sharing the profits with your local community or Christian churches. Consider investing in local enterprises making a difference in the fabric of your city. Partner with a congregation in need. Assign a team to determine a creative way to bless the underserved in your neighborhood. Generosity is one of God’s core values. Own it as a follower of Jesus.
Be humble in your success.
Who gets the credit when you succeed? A Christian realizes all he has comes from a gracious God. Be it gaining insight, closing a deal, entering a market at just the right time, hiring the right people … all of it flows from a providential God who loves His children and fills them with knowledge and acumen. Rather than claim success, give credit to your Creator and to your team. Help them see that while you wrestle and study and act, ultimately you depend on God to lead and provide.
Be a person of hope.
Everyone wants hope. Christians are hope-filled because they know Jesus has conquered all things. He puts both success and suffering in perspective. As 1 Peter says, be prepared to share the reason for the hope that you have. As you build relationships with your employees and live through their struggles with them, don’t hesitate to share how you know all things ultimately work for the good of those who love and trust Him because of your faith in Jesus and His claims. So in spite of how hopeless the present looks, the future is hope-filled.
“Ask Jesus…” for your employees and customers, and tell them so.
Most people love to be prayed for. They may not like being prayed for in public or by someone who doesn’t know them, but if you have a relationship with them, prayer is usually welcome. The most powerful work a Christian can do is to pray because in prayer you humbly ask the Creator of the Universe to act. Commit to praying for employees or customers in need. By letting them know you’re praying for them, you’re also creating an opportunity to share your faith in a non-threatening way. Rather than saying, “I’ll pray for you,” try saying, “I’ll ask Jesus to heal you, or fix that or …” It gets Jesus out there and distinguishes from the normal prayer lingo tossed about by everyone.